On Sunday, August 25th at 3:00pm at The Church if St. Peter in Saratoga, I will be presenting a concert of liturgical music that I have composed for the Church over the past 18 years that I have been Music Director at St. Peter's. The concert, entitled Psalms, Hymns, and Inspired Songs: The Liturgical Music of Philip Spaeth in Concert, will be something of a retrospective of the music I have composed for the liturgy at St. Peter's, including reflections on the inspiration behind some of these pieces, their relationship to my work as a concert music ("classical") composer, and the underlying spirituality that connects it all.
This is something that I have wanted to do for some time, and I'm excited to be able to present this concert! As I have been preparing this music, some of which was composed nearly 17 years ago, I have also found myself journeying down memory lane, from my earliest days as a newly minted, 22-year-old Music Director at St. Peter's, through all of the adventures in between, until my most recent experiences. It has been quite a journey... one which I cannot wait to share with you all, so I hope you will be able to attend!
As I mentioned, I began my journey at St. Peter's at age 22, fresh out of college, in October of 2001, in the very shadow of 9/11. Although I had been a lifelong Catholic, I still had much to learn in terms of the intricacies of Roman Catholic liturgy, the principles that guide the music of that liturgy, and certainly the specific practices of St. Peter's Parish. I was immediately interested in writing music for the Church, and began by creating some choral arrangements for the choir of some of the traditional Christmas hymns ("Silent Night", "O Come All Ye Faithful", etc.). The following Lent, in 2002, I wrote my first seasonal piece for the parish, and began writing more for the Church on a regular basis.
Looking back, I found that I have composed a LOT of music for the Church in the intervening years: seasonal hymns, choral anthems, ostinato refrains with and without superimposed verses, traditional strophic hymns, polyphonic settings of chant melodies, original hymn texts, arrangements of public domain tunes, contemporary-style songs, settings of appointed antiphons for various days of the calendar, a Mass setting, and more. All of these pieces connect to the many personal events of the last 18 years, both joyful and challenging, that have shaped me as a person and have informed my music and my spirituality. While my music is certainly a reflection of me, I have always strived - as any good liturgical composer should - to express not myself, but the assembly of the people of God whom I serve. I hope that this desire to serve through music comes through in the pieces that I will present at this concert, even as I attempt to tell the story of my own journey through the music.
I have been working hard to find music in my catalogue that translates well into a solo concert (although I will certainly not discourage the audience from singing!). So, some of the more complex choral anthems and pieces that require larger ensembles will have to wait for another time. That said, I have still had to do a fair amount of cutting to work the program to a reasonable length, so it seems there is plenty of material for me to highlight on this program. I am also hoping that there will be folks of all ages in attendance who will be able to connect to the music and will have a chance to learn what goes into composing music for the Church. There is a lot to consider when putting something like this together!
It has been said that St. John the Baptist should be considered a patron saint of liturgical music, because the best liturgical music always points the way past itself and toward Christ. It has always been my sincere aim that my music should do just that. I hope you will join me this Sunday afternoon, August 25th.
Click here for a synopsis of this event.